Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Diagrams Increase the Recall of Nondepicted Text When Understanding Is Also Increased

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Diagrams Increase the Recall of Nondepicted Text When Understanding Is Also Increased

Article excerpt

Multimedia presentations typically produce better memory and understanding than do single-medium presentations. Little research, however, has considered the effect of multimedia on memory for nonmultimedia information within a large multimedia presentation (e.g., nondepicted text in a large text with diagrams). To this end, the present two experiments compared memory for target text information that was either depicted in diagrams or not. Participants (n = 180) studied either a text-only version of a text about lightning or a text-with-diagrams version in which half the target information was depicted in diagrams. Memory was tested with both free recall and cued recall questions. Overall, diagrams did not affect memory for the entire text; diagrams increased memory only for the information they depicted. Diagrams exerted a generalized effect on free recall only when diagrams increased the overall understanding of the text (i.e., when the participants studied the materials twice before the test).

The term multimedia is commonly used to describe a variety of interactive digital media, such as video games, virtual reality, hypermedia (e.g., the World-Wide Web), interactive art installations, and the CD-ROMs that accompany many textbooks (Packer & Jordan, 2001). As defined by multimedia-learning researchers, multimedia refers to the presentation of information visually and verbally at the same time, using words and pictures (e.g., a text with diagrams; Mayer, 2009). Such multimedia presentations typically produce better memory and understanding for the topic presented than either of the single-medium components would alone (e.g., text alone or diagrams alone; Mayer, 2009).

One model that has been developed to account for the effects of multimedia on memory and understanding is Mayer's (2009) cognitive theory of multimedia learning (CTML). The CTML assumes that visual and verbal information are processed in two separate channels, each with its own limited processing capacity. The theory also assumes that learning is an active process in which the learner tries to understand and remember the information presented. The CTML proposes that when information is presented both visually and verbally at the same time (as in a multimedia presentation), more connections can be formed between the information than can be formed when information is presented in a single medium. These connections are formed as the reader selects relevant visual and verbal information from the presentation, organizes it into separate visual and verbal models of the scenario being conveyed by the presentation, and finally integrates the two representations with each other and with prior knowledge (Mayer, 2009). The greater number of connections made in a multimedia presentation, relative to a single-medium presentation, is presumably responsible for the increase in both memory and understanding.

The CTML is compatible with Kintsch's (1988) construction- integration model of text comprehension, which posits three levels of text comprehension. The lexical level involves encoding the surface features of a text (i.e., words and syntax). The textbase level involves encoding the surface features into propositions and forming links between propositions. The situation model involves linking propositions with prior knowledge in the reader's long-term memory. The creation of a text representation proceeds in cycles at all three levels, with component processes operating on text segments one at a time. On the basis of this model, at least three factors can affect memory for target text (Rawson & Kintsch, 2004): (1) whether the target information has been encoded, (2) whether connections between the target information and other pieces of information have been encoded, and (3) whether retrieval cues are available for the target information. Diagrams might affect memory in any, or all, of these ways. For example, including diagrams with text might increase the likelihood that depicted information is encoded, make participants more likely to understand how depicted information relates to other information in a passage, and provide better internal recall cues for depicted information than for nondepicted information. …

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